An informative report by Dr. Karl Jansen
Ketamine and Quantum Psychiatry
The word 'psychedelic' was invented by an English
Osmond) and means 'mind-revealing'. A psychedelic drug may tell us more
about how the mind constructs reality, personality and a sense of meaning
and sacredness. It is sometimes said that ketamine is not a psychedelic
because it has anaesthetic properties not seen with LSD, DMT, psilocybin
mescaline. Nevertheless, it can access all of the realms of consciousness
mapped out by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof on the basis of LSD research.
Ketamine is mentioned in (for example) Psychedelics Encyclopedia,
Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered and The Essential Psychedelic
Ketamine is relatively safe when used in hospitals. There is a wide
between the top end of the medical range and a lethal dose. Psychedelic
doses are usually only 10-25% of surgical doses, given by the same route
the same person. At these levels, it behaves more like a stimulant than a
sedative and does not usually suppress the breathing or heart rate,
exceptions do occur. The higher brain is switched on rather than shut
This state is different from being unconscious, where the light-bulb is
turned off and if the person goes too far they may stop breathing.
There are cases of accidental injections with 10 times the amount required
for surgery, with no obvious, lasting ill-effects. When ketamine is taken
outside a medical setting, the main dangers arise from the physical
incapacity it produces.
Dose, how the drug is taken, set and setting have an influence on the
experience. 'Set' refers to the personality, past experiences, mood,
motivations, intelligence, imagination, attitudes, what is going on in
or her life and the expectations of the person. Expectations are affected
what people hear and read about the drug. 'Setting' refers to the
of use, including the physical, social and emotional environment and the
other people present. Empathy with the person giving the drug is a very
important factor, even with an anaesthetic.
Near-Death and Near-Birth Experiences
A 'near-death experience' (NDE) is a report of leaving the physical body,
and sometimes going through a tunnel towards 'the light'. Ketamine can
reproduce all aspects of the NDE, including the conviction of being dead,
having a telepathic communion with God, seeing visions, out-of-body
mystical states, entering other realities, re-experiencing old memories,
a life review which may have therapeutic value
Most NDE's occur in people who are not physically near death.
An NDE can be therapeutic. After-effects can include an enhanced joy in
living, reduced fear of death, increased concern for others, reduced
of anxiety and neurosis, reduced addiction, improved health and a
resolution of various symptoms. Positive changes can also follow ketamine
-induced NDE's (K-trips) which occur within a therapeutic alliance, in an
appropriate set and setting. This is called death-rebirth
Where do these experiences originate? I have written at some length about
the physical basis for them in the past. In this article I will consider
more speculative suggestions that the brain can act as a transceiver,
converting energy fields beyond the brain into features of the mind, as a
television converts waves in the air into sound and vision. Advances in
quantum physics suggest that certain drugs, and the conditions which
produce NDE's, may 'retune' the brain to provide access to certain fields
and 'broadcasts' which are usually inaccessible. This retuning is said to
open doors to realms which are always there, rather than actually
those realms, just as the broadcast of one channel continues when we
The Quantum Mind
Some people believe that ketamine is a mental modem which can potentially
connect the mind to 'everything else', allowing a peek behind the curtain
at the inner workings of this and other realities. In the old Newtonian
universe, the mechanical view declared that all possible forms of energy
fields had already been discovered; that the ordinary, everyday
of space, time and matter and energy was the only scientifically correct
reality; that all people were separate from each other and the rest of the
universe; and that consciousness could not exist without a living
Some of these declarations can be reassessed in the light of new
A subatomic particle can be in many different places at once. When a
changes in one place and time, it's 'linked photon' changes
even if it is on the other side of the universe. It's as if there was no
space between them at all. This means that some physical boundaries could
arbitrary. A messy explanation for this is tachyon theory,
particles which carry messages between the photons. Bell's theorem is more
attractive. This involves a hyperspace where all realities exist at a
point, so no messages are required.
If entry can be gained to the quantum realm, awareness (the 'disembodied
eye') might travel through different realities without the body itself
It was like a cosmic assembly line that was constantly churning out the
alternate universes that some physicists theorise about in which every
conceivable possibility becomes an actual reality. I even had brief
in which I experienced some of these alternate realities as they sprouted
forth out of this cosmic womb...quick glimpses into what felt like other
incarnations, other lives I could have led, darting journeys through seas
(Trey Turner, 100mg ketamine i.m.)
A person is not a photon, and it is a real quantum leap to go from the
subatomic world to human events. Nevertheless, to improve our
of psychedelic experience we may need to reconsider some of the material
which has been dismissed as hallucinations, psychosis, suggestibility,
stupidity and fraud. Hallucination is only another descriptive term - it
doesn't really explain anything. 'Quantum' based explanations for
mental states have started to appear, and we should be wary of dismissing
these new theories out of hand. Some of the most significant advances were
opposed by the most renowned scientists of the day. Einstein himself
quantum physics, declaring that God did not play at dice. Einstein
this physics as 'absurd, bizarre, mind-boggling, incredible, beyond
belief...' and 'the system of delusions of an exceedingly intelligent
paranoiac, concocted of incoherent elements of thought'.
However, Einstein was wrong. The 'system of delusions' worked very well,
and its 'psychotic' advocates won many Nobel prizes. Subatomic particles
could indeed behave as if time and space were non-existent.
It was next observed that there are similarities between quantum processes
and human thought processes. Leading physicists suggested that
may involve quantum events, with profound implications for understanding
certain altered states of being. Professor Stephen Hawking, who sits in
Newton's former chair at Cambridge, believes that the universe has no
boundaries in space or time, and is made up of super-strings which
in 'extra dimensions', balancing vibrations in the usual dimensions:
positive and negative energies cancelling each other to produce the our
universe, based on a 'new' kind of symmetry called 'super symmetry'. The
latest atom smasher may provide evidence of this super symmetry, producing
the world's most expensive Yin-Yang symbol. Has the division between
physicists and psychedelic mystics become one of whether instruments or
mind itself is used to make the same observations about 'the ground of
being'? The language of LSD trips can resemble the language of the older
quantum physics, involving white light and dancing particles, but new
reports in physics journals use terms which are much closer to 'the
of ketamine'. Super-string theory is being supplanted by the discovery of
whole groups of extended objects called p-branes . These may be viewed as
types of membranes, with a string being a one-brane as its only dimension
length. There are other types of 'branes' with far more dimensions.
Becoming an across-the-universe membrane is a typical ketamine effect.
Before p-brane theory was widely known, ketamine and isolation tank
John Lilly MD wrote:
At the highest level of satori from which people return, the point of
consciousness becomes a surface or a solid which extends throughout the
whole known universe. This used to be called fusion with the Universal
or God. In more modern terms you have done a mathematical transformation
which your centre of consciousness has ceased to be a travelling point and
has become a surface or solid of consciousness...It was in this state that
experienced 'myself' as melded and intertwined with hundreds of billions
other beings in a thin sheet of consciousness that was distributed around
the galaxy. A 'membrain'.
Thus transpersonal events may be possible within the new physics, if
subatomic events are involved in consciousness. Ketamine may be a drug
're-tunes' the brain to allow awareness to enter the quantum sea. If this
is indeed the case, then we may have to regard some of the reports of
eternity, infinity, multiple universes and linkage with other beings as
phenomena demanding a more sophisticated explanation than a brief
as 'hallucinations and mental illness' requiring no further
Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy (KPT)
Over the past 15 years, ketamine has been given to over 1,000 patients in
St. Petersburg as an aid to psychotherapy, mainly to assist in the
treatment of alcoholism in well-planned trials with proper clinical
groups. The scientific rigour of these studies is impressive. Long-term
follow-up of patients has been very encouraging, and the treatment has
extended to heroin addicts and some forms of neurosis.
Not a single patient has had complications such as prolonged psychosis,
flashbacks or non-prescribed use of ketamine. This work has been carried
out by psychiatrist Dr. Evgeny Krupitsky and his team. Evgeny is Chief of
the Laboratory, and was recently awarded an honorary Doctor of Science.
spent a year with the ketamine research team at Yale, sponsored by the
conservative National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Sessions are supervised by two physicians, a psychotherapist and an
anesthetist. A return to normal usually began after 45 minutes to an
with a recovery period of 1- 2 hours.
In addition to very good rates of sobriety at one and two year follow-up
compared to the control group, on tests of personality change there are
significant improvements in many scales including depression, anxiety and
ego strength. People become more confident about their own ability to
control their lives and to accept responsibility. Non-verbal emotional
attitudes are brought to the surface and made known, resulting in less
conflict between verbal /conscious and non-verbal/unconscious attitudes
involving alcohol, the personality and other people.
There was also a shift in values towards creativity, self improvement,
spiritual contentment, social recognition, achievement of life goals,
independence, and improvement of family and social life. Life became more
meaningful, and the ability to live according to that meaning increased.
can reconnect the ego with denied parts of the self. It can also lead to
perception of reconnection with 'wider fields' such as the family,
community, planet and universe in general - a form of spiritual
Changes in spirituality were assessed using scales designed to measure
spiritual change in the Alcoholics Anonymous approach, and the Life
Inventory developed to assess the outcome of NDE's.
We try to assist in the patient's psychological integration of the
transformation which can result from the psychedelic experience. The
uniquely profound and powerful experience often helps them to generate new
insights that enable them to integrate new, often unexpected meanings,
values and attitudes about the self and the world. (Krupitsky and
'I saw the Light' conversions have long been linked with spontaneous
recovery from addiction and criminality. All of the 12-step programs, such
as Alcoholics Anonymous, have a spiritual orientation and require
acceptance of the guidance of a 'higher power'. This may be seen as part
of the psyche or a separate entity, depending on personal belief.
An NDE can be a pivotal turning point, encouraging significant and
life changes. People who attempt suicide have a subsequent risk of
further attempts which is at least 50 -100 times greater than the normal
population. In contrast, suicide attempts which result in NDE's are
by a reduced risk of further attempts, despite an increased belief in an
after-life. Of those who survived a jump from the Golden Gate bridge and
had an NDE, none went on to completed suicide, and all were united in
support for a barrier to prevent further attempts.
These findings suggested that the artificial induction of NDE's by
relatively safe means, within a therapeutic alliance in an appropriate set
and setting, might have positive benefits in some people.
The Back Pages
Throughout human history, altered states of being have played a part in
healing. The roles of priest and doctor came together in one person (e.g.
shaman, 'witch-doctor' etc.) who entered 'mental realms', perhaps aided
psychoactive plants, to speak with spirits for the good of the people.
Sometimes, they took the ill person into these realms with them.
The belief that inducing such states for therapeutic purposes was a
mis-guided idea of the 1960's, now abandoned due to lack of efficacy and
unacceptable risks, is incorrect. This was not a minor curiosity of the
lunatic fringe. From 1950 to 1970, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed
publications appeared on the clinical use of LSD, in over 40,000 patients.
The aims included strengthening the therapeutic alliance, diagnosis,
gaining access to memories, and improving insight and the relief of
symptoms. Conditions treated included anti-social behaviour, alcoholism,
obsessional neurosis, and the psychological problems of the dying. Many
the professionals involved were not at all radical, or even liberal, in
outlook. This large enterprise came to a sudden halt when LSD was placed
class A/schedule 1.
New treatments have frequently been greeted with widespread and
inappropriate use, and extravagant claims. They then sink to their proper
place in the medical cupboard. In some cases, this can be affected by
political, social and ideological factors. The only psychedelic drug which
can be used in medicine is ketamine, where it may be used to prevent pain
the body but is not licensed for the treatment of pain in the
In the normal course of events, treatment involving psychedelic drugs
have eventually found its proper place, after the extravagant claims
had passed, with the usual list of possible adverse effects, indications
contra-indications, cautions and precautions, advocates and opponents -as
exist for all forms of treatment. Psychedelic drugs, however, became
up in an intense ideological battle. The result was that not only did all
therapeutic use come to an abrupt halt after 20 years, but almost all
research projects were also suppressed. This did not happen because a
serious new side-effect emerged, or because there was absolutely no
of efficacy. The complete ban on psychedelic drug research appears to have
arisen from issues which are largely ideological. Ketamine provides an
example of the processes involved. It has been given to millions of
patients, and there are numerous reviews affirming its safety (when used
a controlled medical context) and value. In most countries it is not even
controlled drug. Nevertheless, if a research proposal is made involving
of the normal anaesthetic dose, to be given to healthy informed
and the word 'psychedelic' appears anywhere in the proposal, there is
immediate and grave concern amongst ethical committees where anaesthetic
trials may proceed with relative ease. It is difficult to explain this
anomaly using scientific and health concerns. These anomalies have led to
suggestions that this era has a taboo against having certain aspects of
the mind revealed. Ketamine may provide an example of this taboo: a
relatively safe medicine which is suddenly seen as unsafe because it is
described as a psychedelic drug rather than a dissociative anesthetic.
Nevertheless, research with this substance is proceeding in several
countries and may eventually lead to the development of a 'quantum
psychiatry', just as Freudian psychiatry , which saw psychic energy as a
head of steam in the mind, took its cue from Newton's mechanical outlook
(To Contact Dr. Karl Jansen: K@BTInternet.com)
Cite this paper as:
Jansen, K.L.R. (1999) Ketamine (K) and Quantum Psychiatry. Asylum 11 (3)
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